The issue of librarians in universities having faculty status is something I have been thinking about. If you do not know what the argument is about, some universities are dropping their librarians from tenure track faculty members to staff personnel. Here’s an article that explains it better than I can.
Okay, for the next few paragraphs, I am not gonna be very popular. Let’s get that out of the way, rip off the band-aid and get to know each other. Here we go.
University librarians, most of you should not have faculty status. You are not special. Boom. [Drops my keyboard and steps back.]
Yeah, I said it. You are not special. Master’s, PhD, bachelor’s, card that certifies you as member of the Melvil Dewey fanclub, I do not care. You are not special. No librarian is.
And before you shake your resume at me and say “look what I wrote, look at what I published, look what I accomplished,” I do not care. You know why? Because there is a public librarian out there checking out a book to or doing a story time for the future president of this country and that librarian did not do it for tenure or prestige or whatever. They did it because it is their enjoyment, their calling, their way to pay the bills, or just their goddamn job. Are they better than university librarians because of it? No. Are they worse? No. They are the same. They made the choice to go into libraries and serve their community. They chose the community of neighborhoods, of the public and laymen. University librarians chose the community of academia, of students and professors and researchers. We all bow down to the main goal: furthering and providing access to culture and knowledge.
Am I saying there are no librarians that deserve faculty status? No. Someone has to teach others to be librarians, to do the research and the studies and write books on whatever bibliometrics is. So if you want the same respect and whatever as those snooty bastards in the English Department, then get your degree and join a teaching college so you can sit around and think all day. But the catalogers, the referencers, the interlibrary loaners who go through the everyday grind of providing materials to the students and professors... you are doing the same service a public librarian does, just more specialized. You get to trade a more in-depth reference interview process and collection development guides with summer reading program ending with a naked homeless man. If you are in those areas and are required to publish, what do you publish? Would you publish if not required? Is what you are publishing now worthwhile to the community? Are you teaching others by publishing or just putting your thoughts out there? Cause if it is just putting thoughts out there, I can tell you this blogging thing is pretty sweet for that and cheaper than a PhD.
And I get it. You want to feel special and not marginalized in the university. Public library budgets get flashy news coverage, but university library budgets are in danger, too. By no longer being faculty, a pay cut is a'comin not just for you, but for the future little academic librarians making their way up.
But here’s the thing: We did a pretty good job. Our profession created systems of organization of knowledge that was aped and improved on by the IT profession. The systems they are forming will be the backbone of knowledge just as the LoC and Dewey cataloging systems were, and they are doing it so well that you do not even have to see the system at work. Google is the new card catalog.
And as information goes more and more digital, there will be less of a need for brick and mortar librarians. We will be curators of the old texts and maps. And that is okay. And do you know why that is okay?
Because in 20 years, we can laugh as our robot overlords deny the IT guys faculty status because we remember a time when those Doritos and Red Bull loving Java-jockeys would not get off their butts and come out of their holes to help us connect our Outlook accounts, the bastards.